RR: Shamrock Marathon

If I had to rank best weekends of my life….this would be in the top  10 without a doubt. I’ve been grinning from ear to ear all day since  Sunday, and there’s no end to the perma-grin in sight 
I forgot I had agreed to attend a Military Ball the Friday before Shamrock.The result? I was forced to pack for both a Ball and a Marathon – drive an hour south after work to the ball…then 4 hours north to VA Beach Saturday morning.  I had a blast but drank way too much given the plan  for the rest of the weekend. Woke up with a slight hangover. Bad Jen! It  wasn’t a really bad one, but it def made eating a bit difficult. I  forced down some food before my 10am departure to VA Beach.
VA Beach Convention Center – made me nervous because my two Personal Worst Pikermis started here.
The  drive up to VA Beach was uneventful.  I got there a little before 2 and headed straight to the Expo to  be greeted by the beautiful ladies of Runner’s World’s Loop (Loopsters)! After chatting a bit we tricked a  poor girl into taking pics with a squillion different cameras! Here’s  mine:
MJ, Deirdre, Abby, Chris, Me
After  discussing dinner plans, we went on our merry ways. Packet pickup was a  ghost town and took 60 seconds tops. I was really excited to hit the  Expo but it SUCKED! I didn’t buy anything. Probably for the best but I  was really disappointed. Boo, Expo! Luckily the really cool race shirt  kinda made up for it.
I love the beach in the off season! Cheap room with a view!!
With  plenty of time to kill before dinner, I debated a shake out run. I know  I needed it after the car ride. Weather was great. But I hadn’t eaten  lunch because the hangover suppressed my appetite. I decided to work up  an appetite and loosen up by walking along the main stip. Unfortunately  that didnt happen (well, the loosening up did and I force fed myself  some pretzels) but I did happen to run into Abby and Chris out  for a stroll!
I saw these guys right before spotting the girls.
I made a wish on Zoltar for a good marathon. Figured it worked for Tom Hanks!
Dinner  was filled with great conversation and the lady Loopsters just kept getting lovelier (who would have  thought that possible?). The pasta was about the same quality as the  stuff my run club gives us for a $1 but I scarfed down as much as I  could, thankful I ate A TON on Friday, and filled up on laughter.
After dinner I foam rolled and stretched, while admiring the moon and listening to the waves. It was really relaxing.
I tried to get pics a million different ways….but it was amazing.
Unfortunately  it didnt help me sleep. I havent had prerace sleep trouble in a long,  long time. Not even in the previous 3 marathons. For some reason I  didn’t fall asleep until 2 am.
Luckily, I woke up feeling  refreshed. More than refreshed – I felt amazing! Even though I felt  better in the last week, I was still feeling the effects of Bronchitis.  As late as my Monday run earlier in the week\ I had a trace  of gunk in my lungs. Sunday was the first day in almost a month that I  woke up breathing effortlessly. I think this must be how people who live at altitude feel when they get on sea level.
My hotel was kind  enough to serve breakfast early so I was able to get a bagel with PB and  honey, a banana, and a nice cup of coffee before starting my 20 block  walk to the start line. The wind was HORRIBLE. It doesn’t help that I’m a  total pansy in harsh elements. I kept hearing conflicting reports on  wind speed, but it was bad. The flags were whipping pretty violently.
Despite  the wind, warm fuzzy feelings began when I saw the Yuengling trucks  unloading the kegs. Then I saw a cute guy in a kilt and thought, “Maybe  the wind isn’t so bad?”
Pretty sure that Coors Light van  and Miller truck contained Yuengling 
Being  a public beach there were plenty of open restrooms with minimal lines  so I was saved from port-a-potty nonsense. SWEET! Although I never  needed a potty break during the race, I saw plenty along the course with  no lines. Major props to Shamrock.
As the delayed start  approached, the wind seemed to die down. I ended up right next to the  4:30 pace group, my original A Goal before getting sick. My new goal was  to just finish happy. I finished MCM in 5:19 and while I wasn’t happy  with the time, I had a good race experience and I could live with  another crappy finish time as long as I enjoyed the race.
However, did I mention I felt FANTASTIC??
Since  there was no 4:45 pace group, I said eff it – I was gonna see how it  felt sticking with the 4:30s. I was gonna try to put as much distance  between me and the 5 hour group as possible…and hope my body held up.
The  4:30 group took off slow and comfortable. It was really congested and I  was happy to be with them, instead of that frantic “get out of my way!”  feeling I usually get at crowded starts. Their first mile was 10:54,  which ended up being a perfect first mile for me before getting into the  groove.
About a half mile into the race, I heard two guys  talking loudly about their lack of training. One guy said his longest  run was one 18 miler. The other guy said his longest was a pikermi. I  laughed and said “someone’s in for a long race” to the guy next to me,  which ended up being the best thing I could have possibly done – I did  the rest of the race with him!
His name was Ken, although I only  found that our because of the names on our bibs. It was his 14th  marathon. We both had no real goals other than to have fun. Thanks to  him, the miles flew by. We tried to stay with the 4:30 pace group. Mile  2-4 were 10:18, 10:16, and 9:53 (I saw MJ this mile, she  looked awesome!), after that sub 10, I said I had to slow down. Luckily  Ken slowed with me saying, “I’m not going to win the race and I’m not  going to qualify for Boston.” He later told me he qualified and ran in  2007, the year the nor’easter come through.
Despite losing the pace group, Ken and I made pretty good time, Miles 5-7 were 10:15, 10:10, and 10:20.

After  hitting the 7M split (1:13:22), we trotted through Camp Pendleton. This  is always a rough stretch for me in the Rock’n’Roll Pikermis, which I  did in 2009 and 2010. Its always looked like a deserted trailer park to  me. Typically at the RnRs, this is when it starts getting really hot and  I start regretting doing a half marathon on Labor Day Weekend in VA.
What  a difference cooler weather and a new friend make! As we zig zaged  through the camp, we kept hearing a ton of cheering. I thought maybe it  was a cheer squad. Instead the street was lined with young Marines! Ken  said, “eat this up” so I ran through high-fiving and screaming “Thank  you Marines!” Our names were on the bibs so they were able to sream  right back at me. I loved it! Ken compared it to the Wellsey Girls at  Boston. I asked if he got is kiss (He did!). Miles 8, 9, 10 through Camp  Pendleton – 10:33, 10:15, 10:42.
Somewhere around Mile 8 cramps  started forming in my lower calves. This never happened during training  and I hoped they would subside as I pressed on. Instead it went from  slight discomfort to holy crap! by mile 10. I told Ken I might have to  start slowing down if he wanted to press on. He said again that he wasnt  there to win. At this point I really wished he had gone ahead because I  wanted to stop (so glad he didnt). We slowed on the Boardwalk. The wind  was intense but there were pockets of people out cheering.
What  fantastic cheerleaders!! They werent the screaming crowds of MCM, but  they cheered for everyone and their cheers felt genuine. I saw Deirdre (who was injured but came to cheer)  looking hot in her green coat and red hair! Nothing like seeing peeps  you know  We also got annoyingly close to the finish line, so we could  see HM peeps walking around with medals and beer. JEALOUS! Despite the  cramping and the wind, Ken and I pressed on (although a bit more slowly.  Miles 11-16 – 10:31, 10:37, 10:47, 10:45, 10:58, 11:19. Half Split was  2:18:33, which is a pretty decent Pikermi time for me.
Around  mile 16 the cramp had grown, traveling up my claves and into my quads. I  was in pain. It didnt feel like injury pain, so I told myself to man  up….but I tried not to think about how much farther we had to go.  My  legs were really lockin up as we turned into a gorgeous tree lined  street. While pretty, this was the longest stretch for me as I wondered  if my pain management skills were good enough to tough it out another 10  miles. Ken needed to use the port-a-potty. He looked way stronger than  me and knew about the cramping. He told me to go a head and he’d catch  up. I finally stopped for a walk/stretch break, trying to find some  relief.
I had hit my wall early, but unlike every other Marathon  so far, I refused to have a pity party. I was still in good spirits. My  new friend was a life saver!.
We took walk/stretch breaks at  every mile marker. By now my hip flexors were hurting, which was also  something that never happened in training but I’m pretty sure it had  something to do with how the cramps in my quads and calves messed up my  form. Ken would ask “are you ready?” about 1-2 min into every walk  break. My head said no every time but my body trotted back into a run  anyway. I would have a lost a ton more time in this stretch if it wasn’t  for him. Miles 17-22 were 12:59, 11:35, 11:41, 12:32, 11:55, 12:59.  Mile 18 split 3:17:01.
As we exited the Army post, most of the  people were hurting. Lots of walking. Even more hobbling. Ken said he  always took 2 Motrin at mile 20 and he had 3 if I wanted the extra. At  first I thought no. But as I thought about it, I wasn’t dehydrated and I  didn’t think I was going to mask anything leading to  injury. I know  you’re not supposed to take pills from strangers, but after almost 4  hours together, we were practically married! So, I took it.
Something  awesome started happening – I started feeling better. At mile 24 I felt  better than mile 16. We still took a few walk/stretch breaks but it  wasn’t like before. I felt strong again and getting stronger. Miles  23-25 – 12:16, 11:35, 10:55. Around 24 I kept saying “OMG, I feel  fantastic!” It’s a miracle no one within earshot slapped me. We were  passing people pretty consistently. Ken mentioned I looked like I was  going to chick him.
We hit mile 25 and Ken asked if I wanted to  go for it. Again my body answered before my brain had a chance to calc  what I had left. I’ve never even come close to doing this in a marathon.  Heck, its hard for me to hit these kind of paces in a 5k! Mile 26 was 10:07! That’s not a typo. 10:07. HOLY COW!!!
As  we hit the boardwalk for the final stretch, there was a “who moved the  finish line” feeling. Gary had been off by .16 pretty much since mile  5…but hadnt gone up in inaccuracy from there. Final distance was  26.48. But the final .48 was 4:17. Thats a 9:01 average. What?? That’s  close to my 800m pace when I do intervals. How in the heck did I do that after 26 miles???
People  were screaming “you look strong!” and “nice kick” and I actually  believed them. Ken out sprinted me by far but we were still blowing  through people like speed boats in a sea of canoes. It was a high like  no other. I could relive that moment over and over.
Even though  I’m ecstatic with the finish time…I cannot get over the final mile and  a half. I think even if my finish was 6 hours and I had those last few  miles I would have been happy. But it wasn’t 6 hours.
Final time was 4:51:29!! March Marathon Magic!!!!!
With, Ken – My hero! I’m in the finisher’ s shirt and he’s wearing the technical hat.
Ken  and I hugged. We got our finishers long sleeved shirt and hat, and a  pretty awesome medal. The Lady Loopsters were all there at the end of  the chute.

Everyone  kicked so much butt!! I introduced Ken to the ladies and told him for  the millionth time he needed to get on the Loop. After seeing all the  lovely Loopsters, I think he might be considering it 
After  the RnR, my friend and I stopped some volunteer medics walking across  the beach to thank them. They told us that they dont run the RnR because  Shamrock is so much better. Those medics were not liars…and I might  follow their lead! The party was in the biggest tent I’ve ever seen.  Complete with a band and all the Yuengling I could drink (I only had 3).  I loved that there was no sign that a sold out half marathon and at  least half the sold out marathon had gotten to the party 4 hours before  me. It was still hoppin and the beer was flowing!! Good thing too – beer  helps with jumping pics 
The perfect end to a perfect race.

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